Awakening the past - March 11
Mario, his sister Maria and Steve in Naples
Steve and Massimo in the Music Conservatory
Steve looking at the Orpheus fresco in Pompeii
Photo © Angela Vicedomini
Jo and I were invited by our friend and editor of Dusk Magazine Mario Giammetti to attend a celebration of music in honour of his Musical Box book at the San Pietro a Majella Music Conservatory in Naples.
What an incredible place it was! Massimo Farnognoli of the Conservatory showed us around. The inner sanctum of the cloistered conservatory held a veritable Pandora's Box of musical wonders. Here was room after room of gorgeous harpsichords, harps and early 'Name of the Rose' style music manuscripts. It's not every day you're invited to turn the pages of a huge book of musical notation dating back to 1601. From beneath wall portraits under the watchful gazes of Scarlatti, Wagner and one or two others that looked strangely like Brian May, I recognised the distant strains of Debussy's magical 'La Cathedral Englouté' (The Sunken Cathedral) played in a nearby room.
The presentation of Mario Giammetti's book was a wonderful occasion. We were shown live footage of early Genesis and we discussed the special atmosphere of the band. I was very moved when I was presented with a gift to commemorate my part in the rich history of the band, and it felt good to play 'Horizons' in such an incredible place.
The following day after the ceremony Pompeii beckoned. Luckily the winter sun was shining down on that most spectacular ancient ruined city that once boasted a population of 20,000 until the sudden drastic end brought about by the horrific pyroclastic flow from Vesuvius. This really is one of the wonders of the ancient world. The artwork, often created by conquered Greek artists, was incredible. The Villa of the Mysteries was extraordinary and frescoes inside the Villa of the Marine Venus have to be seen to be believed. Age has added to the strange depiction of an undersea world that contains birds and plant life and the odd floating/singing Orphic head. Speaking of Orpheus the villa dedicated to him was closed to the public, but thanks to friends Maurizio and Angela Vicedomini's connections we had a guide who opened padlocked doors and gateways for us. The ghosts virtually invited us in for a takeaway pizza. Wandering into the now peaceful amphitheatre we felt a shiver at the thought that you met your end quite often here if you happened to be on the bill.
It was my most amazing visit to Pompeii. I visited before with the other Genesis guys in the early seventies, with just one hour to spare in the midst of a touring schedule!
We were treated to more extraordinary ancient ruins the following day in Mario's home town of Benevento, and that evening to a really delicious meal. Thank you Mario, Ada, Maria, Massimo, Angela, Maurizio and all the wonderful generous hearted people who gave us such an unforgettable and special time. Everybody was so kind to us and made our weekend stay a real joy, marred only by the sadness we all felt as we learned of the terrible disaster that had just occurred in Japan. This world is full of great happiness and deep suffering, a truth expressed so poignantly in Pompeii by the contrast between the human bodies struggling in their moment of death and the vivid frescoes of a life-loving community.
Marco, Annarita, Steve, Maurizio and Angela in the amphitheatre, Pompeii
Steve and Jo through harps in the Music Conservatory
Steve with a very old manuscript